A man who took a fraudulent personal injury action claiming he suffered a debilitating back injury in a car crash has avoided a jail term.
Raymond Smith (29) is the first person to be prosecuted under the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 for providing false or misleading information during a personal injury claim.
He was caught when DVDs emerged of him taking part in cage fighting competitions after the car crash.
He had faced a maximum prison term of ten years and a fine of up to €100,000.
Smith of Cairn Court, Poppintree, Ballymun, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to knowingly giving false or misleading information to a solicitor at his home in an affidavit during a personal injury claim on September 27, 2010.
Smith received a three year suspended sentence after Judge Mary Ellen Ring said that an example had to be made of people “willing to make false claims for financial reward”.
She said the message should go out that anyone who engages in this activity will face criminal prosecution as well as fines as determined by the Civil Courts.
Judge Ring said that while the case was first of its kind, it “was not dissimilar in nature to others were people make false assertions either under oath during a trial or as in this instance while swearing an affidavit”
Detective Garda Niamh Guchian told the court that Smith was involved in a crash in August 2009.
A car ran into the back of his vehicle causing him to go to the Mater Hospital for treatment.
Smith had been disqualified from driving at the time of the accident having earlier been convicted of dangerous driving.
He later returned to hospital several times complaining of back pain and reduced movement of his spine. Doctors performed an x-ray and prescribed medication to ease the pain.
Smith initiated a personal injury claim against the owner of the car who struck him. He was successful and the Circuit Civil Court awarded him €7,500.
The defendants in the action then appealed the decision and the case was heard by Mr Justice Nicolas Kearns in the High Court.
During the appeal proceedings the defendants presented evidence of Smith engaging in Mixed Martial Arts competitions or “cage fighting” at various times from the date of the crash up until the court date. Details of competitions he had entered and DVDs of him fighting were shown to the court.
A doctor gave evidence on behalf of the defendants that someone with the type of back injury claimed by Smith would not be able to take part in such activity.
Mr Justice Kearns found in favour of the defendants and ordered that the details of the case be handed over to the DPP for possible criminal prosecution. He also ordered Smith to pay the costs involved in the case which was an estimated €12,194.
Smith was arrested last year and during interview admitted he had failed to disclose details of his cage fighting.
He said that a combination of medication, physiotherapy and yoga allowed him to take part in the sport.
Det Gda Guchian told James Dwyer BL, prosecuting, that Smith lives at home with his parents and has a partner and three children.
He has three previous convictions for dangerous driving, assault causing harm and possession of a dangerous article.
Defence counsel Damien Colgan SC told Judge Mary Ellen Ring that it was a “crime of omission” and that Smith already has a large bill hanging over him resulting from the civil action costs.
Counsel said Smith is currently doing a physical training course in DCU and asked the judge to allow him finish this.